An Illusion

“Are you crazy?” my wife snarled at me. “What’s the matter with you?” I didn’t have much to say. I just stood there leaning on a chair and waited for the storm to pass. My wife was furious that I had tried to change a lightbulb for myself. I’d stood on a chair to do the deed, and it was more than high enough and solid enough for the task at hand. Where things went wrong was my deciding to be safer about how I was reinstalling the glass dome that covered the fixture. I had been leaning a bit backwards and working over my head. I decided it would be smarter to face the other direction so that I was working more in front of myself than over. I turned around, looking up at the ceiling and had a moment of vertigo. Had I looked down or at the wall I would have been fine. But looking up and turning apparently bothered my inner ear or something because the next thing I kinew I was on the tile floor and the glass globe had exploded into a thousand shards, some of which were embedded in my arm and chest.

Of course my wife heard the noise. It was just after midnight, making it about lunch time what with my current sleeping schedule. It must have sounded thunderous, my body hitting the floor with a deep thud that carried through the house, punctuated by the loud crash of the glass shade. My wife hurt herself diving out of bed, giving herself a nasty bruise on the leg which only amplified her anger. She lambasted me while she took a broom to the scattered glass pieces, making it ever so clear that I should never undertake to do anything. “I know you feel useless and all of that crap, but you need to get over it.” she growled. “Look at my leg.” She had a large and ugly bruise that made me wince.

How many sixty-five year olds does it take to change a lightbulb? None. We’re too damned stupid and uncoordinated to pull it off.

The thing is, I do feel useless. Earlier the same day I had commented that I was sick and tired of being able to do so little. My wife, trying to be supportive, told me that I did a lot. “Like what?” I asked. She thought for a moment and said “Well, you write.” I waited for the rest of the list, but nothing was forthcoming. I suppose she could have told me that I write, I read, I watch television, and, on good days where my pain level and the weather align themselves, I fly a remote controlled quadcopter. I hire people to mow my grass, service my car, and the myriad other little things I used to do for myself without giving them a thought. I have always been independent, and the idea of relying on others is as alien to me as martian soil. I really get the concept of the bird in the gilded cage. I totally get it. I don’t do squat.

When I was a kid, my family visted a science museum. There was this room that looked normal when you stood in front of it. But as people walked into the room, the got bigger and bigger until they had to stoop to keep from bumping their head on the ceiling. It was an optical illusion. The room was actually built in a trapazoidal shape. The furniture in the room was successively smaller the farther back into the room it was. It was a great example of optical illusion; it would have made M.C. Escher proud. The room is also the way my life feels. As I get further and further into it, my world shrinks. Except that in this case it’s not an optical illusion, my sphere is shrinking like a cotton tee shirt in a hot dryer. Like the shirt, it’s getting too small. 

My brain refuses to grasp my limitations. The fact is that I am often hurting myself by doing simle things. Perhaps not as dramatically as a high fall in a tiled bathroom, but often taking a greater toll than the fall did. Save for the peppering of glass fragments and a skinned bruise on my arm, I’m not much the worse for wear. Lord knows I have been punctured so many times by all of the needles sapping me for blood samples, the glass shrapnel is nothing. Two weeks ago I grabbed a package from Amazon off the porch and managed to strain my back. It ached like crazy for a week. All in all, I prefer the fall I took to carrying a five pound box with the printed Amazon smile on it. My brain doesn’t get it and so I don’t either. I know that everything points out that I should live in a world of Nerf, never doing more than lifting a spoonful of cereal to my lips or raising the remote control to change the television channel. Perhaps that overstates it, but the point is valid. If the body isn’t capable of doing certain things, the brain shouldn’t be telling me to do them. There is some sort of disconnect between the ability to make a plan and executing it. So much for Intelligent Design. Whoever came up with this conundrum should be fired and ineligible for rehire becuse it makes me feel like I’m in jail. Like I’m being punished for no reason.

Okay, okay. I’ve had my rant and now I’ll shut up. But there is something really wrong with this picture and it’s not an optical illusion.